Are you feeling your age? Aches and pains not enabling you to do what you once could? You may blame your body for failing you. But nothing could be further from the truth. Your body is not dumb. In fact, it is one of the smartest machines around. And it’s constantly giving you warning signs.
Body parts don’t just start to fail or go haywire for no apparent reason. There is always a root cause when something goes wrong in your body. News Flash: contrary to what TV ads may have you believe, the root cause is never a deficiency of Prozac, Prilosec, or Ambien. And more often than not, that root cause has been ongoing for many years.
Your Body Is Talking… Are You Listening?
Your body communicates with you all the time. But unfortunately, we may be so tuned in to our electronic devices or our busy lives that we tune out of our bodies. We may fail to pay attention to the warning signs, subtle cues, and clues our bodies are giving us… until it’s too late and they “suddenly” hit us over the head with something major.
Only it wasn’t really suddenly at all… it was the straw that broke the camel’s back if only you’d heeded those warning signs.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a clue when things were starting to go sideways with your body? And you could actually reverse or prevent something worse from happening? Guess what, you do have clues. And your body has been crying out in pain or showing you warning signs all along. You just need the secret decoder ring!
Body Language – 10 Warning Signs Your Body Is Giving You
While it might not feel like it at the time—when you get a headache—it’s a gift from your body! A headache is a big warning sign that something is amiss. The body does not just get headaches for no apparent reason. But when you pop an Advil to remove that headache and continue on with your day, that is akin to putting a piece of tape over the engine warning light on your car’s dash. You no longer see the light—just as you no longer feel the headache—but you have not gotten rid of the root cause either.
There are many root causes for headaches, from dehydration to magnesium deficiency, to a food sensitivity, just to name three. But how often do you stop and try to discover the true root cause of your headache when you get one? Probably not often, right? You just want rapid relief!
Next time you get a headache, try drinking a glass of water (along with a squeeze of lime and a pinch of sea salt—NOT table salt). You may be low on electrolytes and lime + sea salt are the perfect electrolyte. Conversely, table salt has been stripped of nutrients and can actually cause dehydration. Look for the famous Colima Salt here, which is packed with minerals to help you stay hydrated. If an hour later you still have a headache, then try taking some magnesium glycinate (NOT magnesium oxide which isn’t absorbed by the body.)
If after another hour you still have a headache, then it’s time to consider your stress levels, potential food sensitivity, artificial fragrances, or other pollutants you may be breathing in… “peeling back the layers of the onion” to find the true root of your headache. (Side note: ibuprofen has been shown to be as damaging to the gut lining as antibiotics(1) and isn’t something you want to be popping like candy.) Yes, the ibuprofen will take your headache away sooner. But then you’re not listening to your body to discover WHY you got a headache in the first place—and how to prevent it the next time without damaging your gut microbiome in the process.
So as with that headache, here are a few more early warning signals your body may be giving you. And how you can turn things around before they become something more serious. Let’s start decoding…
1. Always Feeling Cold
Can’t ever seem to warm up? This could be an indication of hypothyroidism. According to the Mayo Clinic, “At first, you may barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and weight gain. Or you may simply attribute them to getting older.”
Other hypothyroid symptoms can include pale, dry skin, brittle/thinning hair/nails, and impaired memory or depression, among others. Chronic constipation is another symptom of an underactive thyroid. So pay attention to your elimination. Pooping less than once a day, or daily hard ‘rabbit pellet’ or ‘tootsie-roll’ poops are all considered constipation.
However, “Hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Over time, untreated hypothyroidism can cause a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart disease.”(2)
Most doctors will only test for TSH. TSH is the thyroid hormone used in the pituitary gland. But it’s not what’s actually used/needed by the thyroid or the rest of the body. In functional medicine, any TSH above 2.5 is considered potentially hypothyroid. So it’s a great idea to get a full thyroid panel done as a baseline (TSH, T4, and T3 at a bare minimum). Then if those numbers indicate a hypothyroid state, test for TPO and TPG antibodies to rule out Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune form of hypothyroid where the body starts attacking the thyroid.
Many insurance companies won’t pay for the additional T4, T3, or antibody tests. So you may need to pay out of pocket. But considering that many people with an underactive thyroid go undiagnosed, it’s a good idea to rule that out if your body is communicating hypothyroid symptoms. Another often overlooked sign of underactive thyroid is an enlarged throat/neck. So if your throat/neck has become disproportionally larger than the rest of your body (look at older photos if you don’t recall), you might want to get a thyroid panel done as well.
2. Frequent Bloating
One of the biggest causes of bloating is likely food sensitivities. If you bloat after an occasional meal (or more frequently) it’s a great idea to use my Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal (available at your favorite online retailer around the globe), to track what you’re eating and your symptoms, to become a health detective and determine what might be causing your bloating.
Food sensitivities are quite common these days (different than food allergies, which are IgE antibody-mediated and can cause anaphylactic shock). Food sensitivities are IgG-mediated (not anaphylactic) and can cause a wide range of symptoms. Some symptoms of food sensitivities are gut-related, but many are not. Other symptoms may include insomnia, joint pain, headaches, chronic post-nasal drip, skin rash, acne, constipation, and weight gain to name a few.
However, chronic bloating can also be a symptom of something much more serious. One of the most visible symptoms of ovarian cancer is chronic bloating. Which can happen due to excess buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity.(3) I lost a dear friend to ovarian cancer, and bloating was her initial biggest symptom. She was sure it was something she was eating, and tried everything to alleviate her bloating. But sadly, in the end, it was ovarian cancer.
3. Bleeding Gums
If your gums bleed frequently, it may be a sign that you’re not flossing often enough, or well enough. I know this from personal experience, but thankfully when I upped my flossing game a few years back, my bleeding gums stopped. Using a Waterpik or other brand of water-flosser can also help reduce bleeding gums.
However, bleeding gums can also be a symptom of periodontal disease. And according to Harvard Medical School, those who have gum disease have an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. “Periodontal disease increases the body’s burden of inflammation,” says periodontist Dr. Hatice Hasturk of the Harvard-affiliated Forsyth Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focused on oral health. Acute inflammation — which involves an outpouring of immune cells that attack irritants and microbial invaders — fosters healing over the short term. But long-term (chronic) inflammation is a key contributor to many health problems, especially atherosclerosis.”(4)
4. Abdominal Weight Gain
If you or a loved one has that “pregnant belly” (when you/they’re not) or the “basketball belly” look, this is an early warning indication of insulin resistance which can evolve into pre-diabetes/diabetes. When blood sugar becomes too high the body starts producing adipose tissue, or unhealthy, inflamed fat cells around the abdomen and liver. And this creates the big round, “basketball” looking belly.
Insulin resistance is determined by a combination of your Fasting Glucose marker and Hemoglobin A1C marker. And this is one place where allopathic and functional medicine reference ranges differ significantly. Using allopathic reference ranges, fasting glucose of 99 mg/dL is considered “normal”, yet 100 mg/dL is indicative of insulin resistance. So clearly with a fasting glucose of 99, you’re already on your way to some insulin resistance.
That’s why the functional medicine (FxMed)reference ranges aim for “optimally healthy” rather than “normal” (which is the average of 95% of the population but may not be “healthy”). With FxMed, a healthy fasting glucose range is 78-82 mg/dL. And a fasting glucose of 90 mg/dL and Hemoglobin A1C of 5.2+, would be considered “starting to show some signs of insulin resistance”. That’s the time to start turning things around.
And luckily insulin resistance can usually be turned around with diet and lifestyle modifications. These may include ditching sugar and processed carbs (including alcohol) and getting more exercise.(5)
But many people don’t realize one of the biggest drivers of insulin resistance these days is actually stress. When you’re stressed, your body creates excess insulin to help get more sugar (glucose) from the blood into your cells. But if the cells already have all the glucose they can use, they don’t allow more in, and this creates insulin resistance.
Since insulin resistance is a precursor to many chronic inflammatory diseases including obesity, heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, this is a really good place to start turning your health around to prevent those ailments. Even if you already have pre-diabetes, obesity, or type 2 diabetes, it’s not too late to reverse it, and many people have successfully done so.
5. Waking with Inflamed or Stiff Joints
This can be a sign of arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation(6). Whether osteoarthritis (wear and tear on the joints) or rheumatoid arthritis (autoimmune inflammation of the joints), both conditions are highly linked to Enhanced Intestinal Permeability (a.k.a. EIP or leaky gut).
The gut microbiome is involved in maintaining immune homeostasis (balance) and function suggesting that gut microbes might be critical in altering the immune system that leads to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, as well as non-autoimmune osteoarthritis.(7)
Both of these conditions may be reversed when leaky gut is addressed and the intestinal lining and microbiome are healed. Helping clients to reverse their Enhanced Intestinal Permeability is one of my areas of focus. If you or someone you know is suffering from EIP, please book a free call, I’d love to chat with you.
6. Puffy Red Nose or Face
If you or your friend/family has a puffy red nose or face, and they haven’t been out in the sun too long—take note. These can be early warning signs of heart disease. When arteries become clogged, the body has to work harder to get blood through the veins. This can lead to high blood pressure and eventually cardiovascular disease. And it can also lead to inflammation and redness in the face.(8)(9)
A red, puffy face can also be an indication of excessive alcohol consumption or sensitivity to alcohol. And excessive alcohol consumption is also associated with elevated blood pressure and a higher likelihood of developing hypertension.(10)
7. Frequent Canker Sores
Canker sores can be a symptom of food intolerance. Different than a food allergy (IgE), food intolerances (IgG/IgA) are highly correlated with enhanced intestinal permeability (see #5 above). When partially digested food particles make their way through the intestinal lining, the immune system is on high alert and attacks these food particles.
That’s where molecular mimicry comes into play. In some instances, the molecular structure of certain food particles is similar enough to parts of the body, that the immune system inadvertently attacks its own body. (This is another good place to use the Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal and track possible food sensitivities.) Molecular mimicry can lead to canker sores which generally resolve on their own in about a week. However, frequent canker sores that don’t resolve on their own may be a sign of autoimmune conditions like Lupis.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America (lupus.org) “Mouth ulcers, or oral aphthae (canker sores), are a classic feature of lupus. If you are having frequent bouts of mouth ulcers, you should be examined. Most of the population gets canker sores due to sensitivity to certain foods. Those with active lupus get them without any other cause.”(11)
8. Frequent Muscle Cramps
A Charly horse in the night, muscle cramps or tight muscles can all be indicators of magnesium deficiency. Since roughly 50% of Americans are deficient in this extremely important mineral—which is utilized in over 300 different biochemical processes in the body—this is one supplement that can benefit almost everybody.
Magnesium used to be plentiful in the soil and was uptaken by plants as they grew. So we would get most of our magnesium from the produce we ate. Today, due to poor farming practices and topsoil erosion, most of the soil in the US is now devoid of magnesium (and a lot of other nutrients too). This means that while we may be eating our veggies, they no longer contain as many nutrients as they once did. (In fact, a head of broccoli in the US today contains 50% fewer nutrients than it did in 1975—that’s in my lifetime—shocking!)
In addition to muscle cramps, magnesium deficiency can cause a variety of other symptoms ranging from arrhythmia, insomnia, or constipation, to anger and irritability.(12)
9. Frequent Anger and Irritability
If you’re not magnesium deficient, another big cause of anger, irritability, and mood disorders is gluten intolerance.(13) If you find yourself frequently irritable or angry for no apparent reason you might try going on a gluten-free diet to see if that helps.
Be aware, it can take up to six weeks for gluten to be mostly removed from your body, and you’ll need to read labels and be very diligent, as gluten is used everywhere, and it hides in many places you’d never imagine (soy sauce, stamp/envelope glue, health and beauty products, etc.). If you’re eating out, be sure to ask for a gluten-free menu, and reiterate “gluten-free” with your server.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the liver and anger are said to be connected and many people who suffer from frequent irritability and anger may also have a congested liver/bile duct/gallbladder, fatty liver, or cirrhosis of the liver.(14)
10. Cold or Tingling Finger Tips and Toes
This can be a symptom of pernicious anemia or vitamin B 12 deficiency. Since B12 primarily comes from animal protein, many vegans and vegetarians can be B12 deficient.
People who have pernicious anemia don’t absorb enough vitamin B12 from their diet. This is due to a lack of intrinsic factor, a protein made in the stomach. A lack of this protein leads to vitamin B12 deficiency. And without enough B12 in the diet, red blood cells become larger, sometimes too large to fit in the tiny capillaries in the extremities (fingers/toes). This can lead to cold, tingling, or neuropathy in the hands and feet.(15)
Luckily B12 is a common supplement and readily available. If you suffer from cold toes and fingers or are vegan/vegetarian, it may be worth getting your vitamin B12 levels checked with a blood test first, before you supplement. If you eat plenty of meat and are still B12 deficient, this can be an indication of too little stomach acid.
Listening to Your Body…
Wow, that’s a LOT of different ways that your body can be sending warning signs to communicate with you. So now that you know (and you can’t “un-know” what you know), you can start making dietary and lifestyle changes to help your body support you better. Your body is always there for you. Maybe it’s time to start being there for your body for a change.
Need a little support with this? I’d love to help, let’s chat! Please share this article with your friends and family so they can learn their own body language too. What was your biggest takeaway from this article? Please leave a comment to let us know.
About the Author
As a Functional Wellness Health Coach, I’m passionate about helping you learn how to restore balance and function in your body.Work with me and learn to become a health detective, looking for clues and cues in your diet and lifestyle that may be at the core of not feeling your best. From sleeping better, ditching brain fog, gaining more energy, losing weight or gaining weight, to relieving gas, bloating, constipation, and/or heartburn for good…let’s turn your health concerns around so you can feel fantastic again!I’m Heidi, Functional Wellness Coach (CHHC), author of Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal, Happiness + Wellness Blogger, Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master, and Artist. Thanks for your interest in living a healthier, happier life, it takes a village!The ocean is my home. My husband and I live aboard our sailboat with our two kitties. And we feel gratitude every day for the life we've created. Namaste.